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It is furthermore also cytotypically diverse, with an array of different karyotypes. calamus has been an item of trade in many cultures for thousands of years.
It has been used medicinally for a wide variety of ailments, and its aroma makes calamus essential oil valued in the perfume industry.
The branched, cylindrical, knobby rhizome is the thickness of a human finger and has numerous coarse fibrous roots below it. Sweet flag is native to India, central Asia, southern Russia and Siberia, and perhaps Eastern Europe. It was introduced into Western Europe and North America for medicinal purposes.
Habitats include edges of small lakes, ponds and rivers, marshes, swamps, and wetlands.
The leaves have smooth edges, which can be wavy or crimped.
In addition to "sweet flag" and "calamus" other common names include beewort, bitter pepper root, calamus root, flag root, gladdon, myrtle flag, myrtle grass, myrtle root, myrtle sedge, pine root, rat root, sea sedge, sweet cane, sweet cinnamon, sweet grass, sweet myrtle, sweet root, sweet rush, and sweet sedge.
Common names in Asia include: "Changpu 菖蒲" (Mandarin Chinese)； "shoubu 菖蒲" (Japanese); "vacha"; "changpo 창포" (Korean); "bacch" (Unani); "bajai", "gora-bach", "vasa bach" (Hindi); "vekhand" (Marathi); "vasambu"/வசம்பு (Tamil); "vadaja", "vasa" (Telugu); "baje" (Kannada); "വയമ്പ്/vayambu" (Malayalam); Haimavati, "bhutanashini", "jatila" (Sanskrit), "kâmpean" កំពាន (Khmer), "bojho बोझो" (Nepali), and "Dlingo" (Indonesia).
According to Thompson the primary morphological distinction between the triploid and the North American forms of the diploid is made by the number of prominent leaf veins, the diploid having a single prominent midvein and on both sides of this equally raised secondary veins, the triploid having a single prominent midvein with the secondary veins barely distinct.
Thompson notes a number of other details which she claims can be used to tell the different forms apart in North America, such as flower length, average maximum leaf length, relative length of the sympodial leaf with respect to the vegetative leaves, the average length of the spadix during flowering, and tendency of the leaf margin to undulate in the triploid.
The tetraploid variety is usually known as Acorus calamus var. A number of synonyms are known, but a number are contested as to which variety they belong.